Located in one of the largest agricultural areas in Washington, the Grant County Conservation District is used to providing technical service to farmers and ranchers who manage and grow crops on a large scale.
That outlet for providing technical assistance changed slightly in a positive way during 2018 as the GCCD was awarded one of 19 national Urban Ag Grants funded by the NACD (National Association of Conservation Districts).
The grant proposal was to provide urban agriculture opportunities to underserved seniors who couldn’t access local grocery stores for all of their food needs.
Various types of garden plots were set up at 8 different locations. Composted manure from 2 local dairies and 1 heifer feedlot was delivered to the retirement facilities. The idea of sharing organics and residual nutrients with residents at retirement homes was a perfect partnership for assuring sustainable food production.
Some of the garden beds were built at ground level. Raised beds and vertical garden boxes were also provided for seniors with minimal flexibility. Additionally, large containers were provided for those confined to wheelchairs.
Irrigation, materials, and trucking was entirely provided by the grant. Materials included, garden creepers, planting and cultivation tools, watering cans, hoses, nozzles, and replacement plants.
The $50,000.00 grant was specifically for food production. Flowers and other ornamentals were not eligible. Indirect benefits of the project included healthier diets, and the fact that maintaining gardens is therapeutic, relaxing, and fulfilling.
All livestock operations that were approached liked the concept and agreed to participate. Several yards of compost were made available from the following farms:
- Royal Dairy in Royal City
- C&G Cattle Company in Othello
- Youngren Dairy in Quincy
Extra compost was also available and delivered to community gardens in Moses Lake and in Othello. A vertical garden set up with irrigation was set up and planted at an Alzheimer care facility in Moses Lake. Local facilities participating in the project included:
- Coventry House in Othello
- Pioneer Village in Moses Lake
- Brooksdale care facility in Moses Lake
- The Cambridge house in Quincy
- Monroe/Genesis assisted living in Moses Lake
- Columbia Crest Center in Moses Lake
- McKay Healthcare/rehab in Soap Lake
- Soap Lake Community Gardens
- Summerwood Alzheimer Special Care Center
- Moses Lake Community Garden
- Othello Community Garden
Volunteers helped with distributing the compost and planting the gardens. The local walleye club located in Moses Lake provided many volunteer hours building, and delivering the raised gardens and vertical gardens.
The gardening season has now passed and the gardens are idle until spring. All in all, it was a successful and beneficial project. Healthy produce was grown for the residents. Of course a lot was to be learned from a large project like this. Obstacles like dealing with “hot” compost, infrequent watering, and seed washout slowed the gardening down a bit. Some of the sites had closed courtyards for security reasons and the compost had to brought in through hallways. Heavy plastic was laid down beforehand so that carpeting stayed clean and cleanup could be taken care of easily.
The gardening materials supplied to each site are to stay with the facilities so that they may be used for several years to assure the sustainability of the project.